Imprint House embodies small home design principles to transform a once modest, free standing terrace in Alexandria into a contemporary family home.
From the architect:
The client’s initial brief was to reconfigure the layout of their dark, inefficient, existing cottage to include a new bathroom, laundry, kitchen and dining area which connected to the courtyard of the home. The brief for the project also included the addition of a master bedroom which, due to site size constraints, was to occupy a first-floor addition.
With a site of less than 140m2, the challenge of this project was to provide more space and amenity without increasing the footprint of the building. Space-saving measures adopted to cater to the small site framed the brief for this project and went hand in hand our client’s sustainable ambitions resulting in a light hearted outcome which celebrates the original character of the house and the urban fabric in which it sits. Principles of passive thermal design were integral to the project, informing layout, window placement and materiality.
The clients, a young family with an environmentally conscious lifestyle, had a consistent focus on sustainability throughout both the design and construction of the project. They were conscious of future proofing the home to allow the installation of solar panels when down the track budget allowed. The roof was then designed with a slope to the North to capture this potential. The clients also made a priority of incorporating sustainable features where budget was restricted, opting for double glazed windows and cost-effective interior finishes. In the construction phase of the project, when the concrete floor was being poured, gum leaves from the nearby trees fell onto its surface. Rather than removing these imprints through polishing, our clients opted to keep them, adding another unique touch to this charming small home. Hence, Imprint House. This poetic beginning to the home is a true reflection of their mindfulness to avoid excess and unnecessary consumption.
The challenge of this project was how to overhaul the thermal performance of the house working with the site’s orientation, its location within a Heritage Conservation Zone and the client’s desire to retain as much of the original building fabric as possible. The resulting home is characterised by innovative design incorporated to celebrate these constraints within the compact and west facing corner block. The thermal performance of the home was a challenge to improve as the old portion of the house was cold and dark, having not been designed with principles of passive solar design in mind. The northern and western facades of the building only had small windows, blocking natural light and sun from entering the home. The desire to maintain the original character of the home from the street but also improve its performance were reconciled through the insertion of new large openings into the original brick work coupled with a new concrete floor slab to capture and store the warmth of the sun. Careful consideration was given to the design of the stair to the North and new upstairs in order not to block the Northern Sun. The stair wraps and frames the new window openings, light is borrowed from across the stairwell for the dining and bedroom. This symbiosis of passive thermal design and small home design principles creates efficiency in the home emblematic of the client’s desire to lead lives of low environmental impact. The super-efficient design of the bathroom and laundry, which sit beneath the open stair, also ensured that as much light as possible could be brought in to the kitchen and dining areas. The orientation of the site also meant that the facade with the greatest opportunity to have large windows and connection to the external courtyard is west facing. To counter the possibility for heat gain across the west facing glazing, ample eaves were designed to shelter these windows. A benefit of this being increased privacy into the upstairs bedroom. The concrete floor of the new kitchen created increased thermal mass to store heat in winter and also houses hydronic heating pipes for energy efficient heating in the cooler months. A 2000L rainwater tank was fit into the 20m2 courtyard without losing space for a (small) green oasis.
Imprint House is an exemplar of our design philosophy towards low impact, energy efficient homes. The extra emphasis on ‘less is more’ simplicity in this project has been carried across other projects in our office, particularly when it comes to specifying finishes; with the raw material palette within this project being adopted in future projects both for its energy and cost effectiveness.